Although I’m still not taking on many blog tours, I had to support my lovely friend Kelly at Love Books Group with this tour for Mother and Child by Annie Murray for all kinds of reasons. Firstly, I have visited India where part of the book is set and love the country. Secondly, the proceeds of Mother and Child will be donated to charity, the Bhopal Medical Appeal, which is enough incentive anyway and thirdly, because I have a friend who had been at the Bhopal site not long before the disaster and who has never recovered from the guilt he feels at having escaped what happened there.
If you would like a fabulous read and be able to support the charity, Mother and Child, published by Pan Macmillan is available for purchase here.
Mother and Child
Mother and Child by Sunday Times bestseller Annie Murray is a moving story of loss, friendship and hope over two generations . . .
Jo and Ian’s marriage is hanging by a thread. One night almost two years ago, their only child, Paul, died in an accident that should never have happened. They have recently moved to a new area of Birmingham, to be near Ian’s mother Dorrie who is increasingly frail. As Jo spends more time with her mother-in-law, she suspects Dorrie wants to unburden herself of a secret that has cast a long shadow over her family.
Haunted by the death of her son, Jo catches a glimpse of a young boy in a magazine who resembles Paul. Reading the article, she learns of a tragedy in India . . . But it moves her so deeply, she is inspired to embark on a trip where she will learn about unimaginable pain and suffering.
As Jo learns more, she is determined to do her own small bit to help. With the help of new friends, Jo learns that from loss and grief, there is hope and healing in her future.
An Extract from Mother and Child
Eyes open in the dark, I’m listening for his feet on the stairs, the way I used to hear them in the other house,long after he was gone. There would be the tiny noise of the front door latch turning very quietly, Paul trying not to wake us after a shift, that pause as he pushed each of his trainers off with the toe of the other foot. The still laced shoes would be there in the morning. He might go into the kitchen for a drink before creeping up the stairs,his bedroom door closing almost silently. He was good like that, always sweet, considerate, even at his worst.
I feel bad if I don’t listen for him, guilty if I forget,even for a second, guilty if I smile – even the briefest of social smiles – which up until now I have not felt like doing, hardly for a second.‘Jo?’ Ian’s voice comes to me up the stairs the next morning as I’m cleaning my teeth. ‘I’m off now.’I look down at the basin so as not to see myself in the mirror in this bright white bathroom, this woman hearing a man calling to her from downstairs who is my husband of almost thirty years. Answer him, I command myself.
It seems to take an ocean of energy to force words past my lips.‘’K,’ I spit out. ‘Bye. Hope it goes well.’‘You going over to Mom’s?’ he calls.‘Yeah – course.’He’s taking the car. He doesn’t ask if I’m going to the cemetery. I went every day in the beginning. It’s two buses from here to Selly Oak, just as far as it was from Moseley.‘Great, thanks.’ A few seconds of quiet. ‘OK, bye.’ He pauses again. ‘See you later.’The front door closes. The latch sounds different from the old house with its dark- blue door and ancient Yale.
Here we have one of those clicky white jobs, the sort where you have to jam the handle up to lock it. The unfamiliar sound tilts me back into anguish. I’ll never hear that old lock turning again, the door opening, the creak of the stairs, each tread familiar. Everything has gone, been taken away …
Isn’t that wonderful? And now here’s a little more from Annie:
A Word from Annie Murray
Soon after midnight on the morning of December 3rd, 1984, what is still recognized as the world’s worst ever industrial disaster took place in the city of Bhopal in central India.
A plant built to manufacture pesticide, owned by the American Union Carbide Corporation, leaked 40 tons of methyl-isocyanate gas, one of the most lethally toxic gases in the industry, over the surrounding neighbourhood. This was a poor area consisting mainly of slum housing, some of it leaning right up against the factory wall.
People woke, coughing and choking. Panic broke out as many tried to flee for their lives. As they ran, their bodies broke down with toxic poisoning, eyes burning, frothing at the mouth. Women miscarried pregnancies. Many people flung themselves in the river and by dawn, the streets were littered with thousands of bodies. It is estimated that 10,000 died that first night and the death toll continued, within weeks, to a total of about 25 000. Many more have died since. There are still reckoned to be 150 000 chronically ill survivors. Their plight was not helped by the fact that Union Carbide would not release the name of an antidote to a poison that they did not want to admit was as dangerous as it really was.
The plant, making less profit than had been hoped, was being run down for closure and was in poor condition. Not one of the safety systems was working satisfactorily. In addition, the original design of the factory had been ‘Indianized’ – in other words built more cheaply than would be expected of such a plant in a western country.
This was 35 years ago. In 1989, a paltry amount of compensation was eventually paid by Union Carbide who did everything a large corporation can do to evade taking responsibility. Their comment was “$500 is about enough for an Indian.” That was $500 to last for the rest of the life of a man who could no longer work to look after his family.
The sickness and suffering from ‘that night’ goes on in those who survived to this day. What is less well known about Bhopal however, is that even before the 1984 gas leak, the company had been dumping toxic waste in solar evaporation ponds. The lining used was about like you would use in a garden water feature. This in a country of heavy rains and floods. In the early 80s, people started to notice how bad their water supply tasted. Cows were dying.
Union Carbide closed the plant. They never cleared the site, which still stands in an area of highly toxic soil and water. The water supply in that area is so contaminated that water has to be brought in from outside. In 2001 Union Carbide was bought by the Dow Chemical Company, and is, from 2018, now DowDuPont. Despite having acquired all the assets of Union Carbide they are not prepared to accept its liabilities and clear up the site.
In the months after the gas leak in 1984, the nearby Hamidia hospital started to see children born with birth defects more horrific than any they had witnessed before. These days, because of gas- and also water-affected parents, the rate of birth defects is now reaching into a third, soon to be a fourth generation. The main parallel with the kind of extreme toxic effects would be with the children of Agent Orange in Vietnam.
The only free care in this impoverished neighbourhood for people suffering from the effects of gas poisoning, or to help with very severely handicapped children, is from the Bhopal Medical Appeal. It is to them that all the money from Mother and Child is going.
In the book, you can read more about what happened in Bhopal and about how the book itself came to be written.
About Annie Murray
Annie Murray was born in Berkshire and read English at St John’s College, Oxford. Her first ‘Birmingham’ novel, Birmingham Rose, hit The Times bestseller list when it was published in 1995. She has subsequently written many other successful novels, including The Bells of Bournville Green, sequel to the bestselling Chocolate Girls, and A Hopscotch Summer. Annie has four children and lives near Reading.
There’s more with these other bloggers too: